WHEELING - Ohio County Democrat leaders Monday chose state Sen. Orphy Klempa as their strongest candidate to win the Nov. 6 election for county commissioner.
The 12-member executive committee selected Klempa to fill the ballot spot in the race for county commissioner left vacant when David Sims withdrew from the race to become a circuit court judge.
Klempa now will face Republican Patty Levenson in the general election. His senate seat is not on the ballot this year, and he will not need to resign his office unless he is elected commissioner in November.
SEN. ORPHY KLEMPA
County Democrat Party Co-Chairman Rocky Fitzsimmons said a total of six candidates submitted letters of interest to fill the ballot spot, and five showed to speak before the committee - Klempa, Brian Warmuth, Ron Musser, James Conlin and former Wheeling councilman Vernon Seals.
The sixth candidate did not appear, and Fitzsimmons commented that "out of respect" he would not reveal the candidate's name.
Klempa now must register with the county commission office to run in the election, and he plans to do so today.
"I'm very grateful to the Ohio County Democratic Executive Committee for choosing me," Klempa said. "They had five great choices, and they could have picked any of us.
"It was interesting to hear the comments of the other candidates ... There were a lot of good ideas. I hope if they weren't chosen that they stay active with the Democratic Party because we need good candidates in all of our offices. And who knows ... there could be a couple of shining stars there if they stay with it."
The five candidates attending each addressed the executive committee. The meeting was closed to media and non-Democrats, and took place at the county Democrat Party office located in the Board of Trade Building on 12th Street in Wheeling.
After each candidate spoke, non-members of the executive committee were asked to leave the room. The committee deliberated for about an hour before announcing their final decision.
Members were looking for two things in the candidates, according to Fitzsimmons. They wanted someone who was qualified for the position, and someone politically experienced enough to win the seat in November.
"Mr. Klempa obviously provides those two things," he said. "Actually, he has been the face of the Democratic Party in the Northern Panhandle. If you want to know the truth, he has probably been our strongest candidate. And now we have an opportunity to win the commission seat."
As for having to potentially fill Klempa's state senate seat, Fitzsimmons said the party would "cross that road when we get to it."
"My understanding is we will not have to face that decision until November if Mr. Klempa is successful in the election," he said. "And when that occurs, we will go through the same process.